Judge overturns bylaw conviction over 2020 dog attack

Appeal over poodle attack

A Kelowna man has successfully appealed a $1,000 bylaw fine after he was convicted of causing his one-year-old poodle to become a “dangerous dog,” following an altercation with another dog at Okanagan College in 2020.

Ian Sisett was exercising his three large poodles off-leash on a field at Kelowna's Okanagan College on the morning of Jan. 29, 2020, when the three dogs ran up to a small dog, Spike, who was walking on a nearby sidewalk.

While Spike's owner, Melanie Michaels, was able to chase away Sisett's two other dogs Charlie grabbed Spike's head and shook him, fracturing the small dog's jaw. Michaels testified Spike's injuries cost her more than $6,000 in vet bills.

In a decision last July, the judge ruled that Charlie was a “dangerous dog” and that Sisett “caused or permitted” him to become a dangerous dog by allowing him to be off-leash. Sisett was convicted of the bylaw offence and fined $1,000.

In a recent hearing, Sisett appealed the bylaw conviction on a number of grounds.

“He asserts that the bylaw officer, the RDCO, Ms. Michaels and the Judicial Justice were all biased against him,” wrote Justice Gary Weatherill in his recent decision.

“He says the Judicial Justice permitted inadmissible evidence to be led by the RDCO over his objections and denied him the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses or lead evidence of his own to counter that evidence.”

But while Justice Weatherill said there was “no merit” to Sisett's allegations of unfairness, the judge ultimately granted the appeal.

As defined in the bylaw, Justice Weatherill said Charlie should be labelled a dangerous dog, as the dog seriously injured Spike in the incident. But Justice Weatherill ruled that Sisett did not “cause or permit” Charlie to become dangerous just because he allowed him to run off leash.

“Of critical importance to a [Section 36 of the RDCO Responsible Dog Ownership Bylaw] offence is a requirement that Mr. Sisett either actively participated in Charlie becoming a dangerous dog, or passively failed to take steps to prevent Charlie from becoming a dangerous dog,” Justice Weatherill stated.

“Allowing Charlie to be off-leash when he should not have been, without more, is not active participation or acquiescing in him becoming a dangerous dog.

“Before one can 'cause or permit' a dog to become a dangerous dog, there must be a degree of active participation or control in encouraging a dog to be dangerous (as for example, actively training or encouraging a dog to attack animals or persons and/or seriously injure them), or a state of indifference or acquiescence in knowing a dog has a propensity towards violence and doing nothing about it.”

Justice Weatherill noted the evidence in the case was that Charlie was a playful one-year-old puppy, and the incident was a “one-off event.”

As a result, Justice Weatherill overturned Sisett's conviction.

More Kelowna News